freelance hourly rate

Hi all,

I’m looking for some input on freelance hourly rates for industrial designers in the LA area. I’ve got about 5 years of experience plus a Master’s degree in ID, but I’m new to LA and haven’t done any freelance work here yet.

I’ve been approached by a manufacturing company based in Hong Kong to design a few possible product lines. The products would be fashionable soft goods like backpacks, laptop bags, camera cases, etc. My role would be detailed designs and specifications, basic sourcing/costing, but no prototyping/sampling.

Any suggestions/advice appreciated!!!


Goody, more backpacks. There certainly aren’t enough in the market already. hope you have some really amazing ideas to make your designs stand out.

Anyhow, I would charge $50-65/hr.

Wait a sec. A manufacturer in Hong Kong wants a designer in LA to source? Somethng wrong with this picture.

That does sounds weird!
why would they hire a freelance from LA for $60/hr when they can get it in HK for $20 with 10 yrs experience?

$20 /hr in HK? I think that is a entire design/enginering staff in HK you are speaking of…

Actually, HK is using a lot of western Industrial Designers. They are begining to see what they lack in the market place. Not to mention they are pumping big bucks into the higher education of design within China. I noticed some American professors going over there to teach.

I work with a bunch of manufacturers over there and it is like baby siting - they are in great need of people who can decifer things visually…

I am in Chicago, and was offered some freelance over there as well- I think it is a new trend in China. They want to design and market their own goods at higher margin. Maybe it’s because we keep on beating them up on their manufacturering pricing.

How are all of you getting noticed by HK companies for Freelance?

Was also approached (3 years ago) through my online portfolio site by a HK based lighting company, said they needed a US designer to design concepts for their in-house designers to develop. Expressed that they (internal designers) were ahving dificulty figuring out the highly “pragmatic and segmented” design styles and current themes.

Not feeling confortable dealing with an overseas company on a freelace basis I turned them over to the company I was contracting for. The project went well and smothly, although they were very price sensitive. final contract was $4000 for 20 lighting designs in two thematic catagories narrowed down to surface CAD (CDRS) of 5 total designs, and 10 ceiling fan designs of a tropical theme narrowed down to 2 Surface CAD models.

Untill it came time to pay. They paid the 50% to initiate, however they never paid the final 50%. And when the firm contacted their bank they said they closed that account and had no information on were they moved to. Same info when contacted the phone # that was used during the design program.

All I have to say is cover your back side, and get as much up-front as possible.

Oh, saw one of the fan designs sold under another manufactures name about 2 months ago at a major home improvment store. Even though the firm got screwed it still felt good to see my design hanging there in the display rack. Right down to the subtle signature I hid and modeled into the blade armatures and the light fixture. To bad I read last week that the motor was recalled becuae the manufacture lied about the UL certification on the unit, and it is not properly grounded for sale in the US. At least I have the one I bought, but I sure wont be instaling it.

It sounds like you’ve had some mixed replies to your question. I think that from my experience if they are interested in hiring you, and it sounds like it, then give them a bid based on your areas average. I think that $50-65 sounds about right. I am a designer and I have different rates for different fields: Graphic Design - $35 an hour / ID: 50-60 an hour / Interiors: 75-100 an hour /Signage: 50-60 an hour. It depends on the field, competitors, and your aestectic and style.

Just my 2cents.

Has any stopped to think that maybe this is someone trolling for information they can use against a freelancer?

One major reason why American is not very welcome by many countries

It certainlly was never a secret. The one reason America does business with China is strictly to get something done at a lower cost. It isn’t the convenience…

I was not trolling for info to use against another freelancer… it was a legitimate question!

The HK company that asked me for a price is one that I have worked with indirectly many times before. I have done freelance design work for a large US company and they then contracted the manufacturing to the HK company. They know my work, I know theirs.

Thank you for all the helpful responses.

Just for the record, the upshot of the deal is that the HK firm wants to develop products on spec to sell to major US retailers/brands. They were not surprised by the hourly rate I quoted them but were shocked by the amount of time that it would take to design the products they wanted. It ends up that they would be willing to pay a % on all units sold and a small fee upfront. That’s not a situation that I wanted to get into with a company whose books I couldn’t have access to. However, we will be working together in the future on some other projects for which they will pay my regular fee.

As someone else mentioned, it is interesting to see Target staffing up and notice how many large retailers are going directly to manufacturers for “designs” - whether or not the manufacturer has design capabilities. The next couple of years should be really interesting, IMO.

I my country design firms takes 50€/h from web-design, programing etc. I my opinion freelancer at start must to do work lower price than real firms.
Okey, there is firms who take more than 50€/h.

you should be looking to charge around HKD500ph depending on your experience. structure your quote depending on the amount of work you think think the job requires to get it done and break this down into stages. i bet you you’ll get the first stage only (concept work)!

HK has many capable designers who can very quickly develop a product, but it is lacking in orginality so it’s the front end work which is required. a HK company will not pay western rates for something which can be done by an employee in HK at an hourly rate of around USD8ph.

also, be aware that you’ll be expected to do more for your money than when working with a western company, that’s the HK/Chinese work ethic - somehting for nothing!

Most big ID frims in the US charge between $80 and $150 an hour, and they usually pad the hours a bit, so asking for 50-65 with 5 years experience is totally legit, especially with a possability of the company screwing you. I usually charge at about $80/hr depending on the project, but I also work very fast at this point. Good luck man, I think it is becoming pretty common for asian groups to outsource their initial design phase.

I have spent ages trawling the tron for this kind of info, as I have just set my price for freelance at equivalent of around $60 USD. Have been in house for 4 years, now earning about $36000 USD. Anywhere between $50 and $70 seems pretty average for quiality freelance ID.

I used to work in Hk and Taiwan for more than 6 years as a freelancer, the local companies effort to pay the rate that i requested where the rate was from USD70-95ph. Every project will be rated differenly and it is based on the project time frame and catagory.

you were right, total of work should be calculated in order to quote and to decide the project’s hour rate, and brake them down into stages. Most of my
clients want me to complete the entire project. Imagine if they like your concept, will they stop you from continuing and let the 2nd designer
to handle it? stop kidding, a sporty car concept sometime become
a bicycle in production line.

By the way, you are not suppose to compare freelancer’s hour rate with
employee(designer) in HK’s rate. They have no relation.

nice day.